Helping out a friend or family member by looking after their dog can be fun and rewarding — but not if the visiting dog's behaviour is causing a problem. Ben Randall takes on a case from a reader facing this tricky situation.
Looking after our own dogs and dealing with their various foibles and habits is one thing, but what do we do when a friend or relative’s unruly dog comes to stay and causes all manner of vocal mayhem?
This is exactly the dilemma being faced by J. R. from Lanarkshire, who has written to us via our firstname.lastname@example.org email address to ask how best to cope with his sister’s dog barking incessantly throughout the day when it comes to stay:
My sister has recently moved from the city to the countryside where I live, and since she came up here, she has got a dog. It’s a nice-natured dog, about a year old, but so noisy and barks ALL the time — nothing like our lovely, calm dog. That’s fine in itself, but the other weekend she left her dog with us while she went away and it drove us (and the neighbours) mad with its constant barking. She’s already booked it in with us for three more breaks and we’re already worried the same thing will happen again. Any advice?
I can understand where you’re coming from, as this is most definitely not ideal and a big onus must be put on your sister to train her dog to enable its time in your home to be far more positive and relaxing for all concerned.
If this dog is continually barking all the time that it is with you, it will not only stress you and your own dog out — as well as disturb and upset your neighbours — but, as an experienced trainer and behaviourist, it shows me that your sister’s dog cannot be in a happy place in its mind, either.
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I’ve been perfecting my BG (Beggarbush) foundation methods for nearly 20 years and understand that even experienced dog owners come up against issues that they are not sure how to handle. However, with a little common sense and patience, it’s possible to train your sister’s dog to be calm and happy around the house in all scenarios — and indeed there’s no reason you won’t come to look forward to your new regular visitor. You can learn more via @beggarbush on Instagram and my dog-training app (this link will let you get a free trial) or ask me your own question by emailing email@example.com.
How to stop a dog you’re looking after from barking at everything
1. Get familiar with the five-step plan to tackle barking
To begin with, I highly recommend that you read my article on how to stop a dog barking at the door, as it contains lots of hints and tips — and a five-step plan — which will help you quickly and effectively nip this behaviour in the bud. Ideally you’d share it with your sister as well, but… well, families are families, so I’ll leave it up to you how to approach that!
2. Identify the triggers and be ready to act
When people say that a dog is ‘barking all the time’, nine times out of ten they mean that the dog is reacting to things — and from your email, it sounds like this is the case. So pay careful attention and make sure that your sister’s dog is only barking when it hears noises, such as delivery drivers, or postmen coming to the door, or when she sees or hears your neighbours out in their gardens? If this is the case, then, whenever she hears or sees something that triggers the barking, we need to act — which brings us to step three…
3. Teach the ‘leave’ and ‘in’ command
Your sister is leaving her dog with you regularly, and for days at a time, you’re going to have to take the initiative and train the dog so that it doesn’t disturb your household. You need to teach the ‘leave’ and the ‘in’ command, whereby we teach the dog to go to her bed every time anyone comes to the door, or whenever she is disturbed by anything.
Then, if she does this correctly every time without barking, and once the distraction has left the environment, we approach the dog within its space or bed and reward them with a piece of kibble and calm praise.
If you teach this new behaviour carefully and consistently, the dog will soon start to think: ‘Someone’s at the door or walking past, I can hear a noise — how quickly can I get to my bed in a calm, relaxed way and patiently wait for the distraction to go, so I will get my reward for acting in a more measured and positive way.’
4. Keep going, as it’ll get easier with time — and make sure your sister is on the same page
In time, your sister’s dog will become far less stressed and more relaxed in your home environment, which will make her visits a much more pleasurable experience for all involved.
However, this is something that your sister needs to focus on every day in her own home, too, so that she can reset her dog’s training foundations.
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk. For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit www.gundog.app/trial
Over the past two years our award-winning dog trainer Ben Randall has been sharing his advice with Country Life readers.
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